Paul Foster

Paul Foster

Paul Foster

From the industrial reaches of Coventry to sunny California, Paul Foster has made a name for himself cooking well-executed food with a focus on taste. His signature style of taking humble ingredients and giving them a gastronomic twist has seen him well placed as head chef at restaurants across the UK.

Paul Foster became interested in food from a young age. His parents were involved in the pub business with his mother running the kitchens, and she would help him to bake cakes which he sold to the pub’s bouncers.

His journey to becoming a top chef saw him gain experience under a cross-continental array of Michelin-starred chefs. After completing a catering course at Henley College Coventry, Paul worked at several restaurants around the Midlands. Paul later spent a year at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire working across several different sections, including a spell under Benoit Blin on the kitchen’s pastry section. It proved to be a formative year, giving him his first taste of working in a kitchen with a large number of chefs.

In 2006 Paul won the William Heptinstall Award, a charitable scholarship which provided him with £3,000 in order to undertake stages in France and America. He spent a week in L’Auberge de l’Ile, the three Michelin Star restaurant in Lyon, where he was trusted to control the pass by the end of the week. After crossing the Atlantic to New York he fulfilled his desire to undertake a stage in the technologically innovative wd~50, learning techniques such as cooking sous vide and making hot gels.

The final part of Paul’s trip saw him spending six weeks at The French Laundry in California, a restaurant he had long admired for their efficient service system and sustainable approach to ingredients. Paul was inspired by their ability to source quality ingredients directly from their own farm, enabling them to write the daily menu based on what was currently available.

Upon returning to the UK Paul took on a sous chef position at Restaurant Sat Bains, the two Michelin-starred restaurant in Nottingham. Sat Bains proved a hugely influential mentor to Paul, pushing the young chef to develop himself creatively and to bring taste and flavour to the forefront of his focus. Under Bains’ tutelage Paul learnt to view quality and flavour of ingredients as paramount, with technique used as a supporting factor in the creation of a dish.

Keen to further his own style of cooking Paul became head chef at the Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk in 2010. The idyllic location inspired him to make use of the wild plants he could see from the restaurant’s window such as mugwort and meadowsweet, growing by the river Lark. This use of foraged ingredients to enhance the flavour of his food – rather than as a mere culinary trend – is a mark of his creativity. He often chooses to omit those details from his menu so that the taste can speak for itself – hake and confit potato is enriched with chickweed, whilst he uses ground ivy in a lime curd and yogurt mousse. Whilst flavour and texture is key to Paul’s cooking his visual inventiveness shines through - a dessert of Bitter chocolate textures, for example, is served surrounded by chocolate soil.

After four years of honing his style and seeing Tuddenham Mill awarded three AA Rosettes, Paul Foster moved to The Dining Room at Mallory Court in Bishops Tachbrook. Based just outside Leamington Spa, it marked a return to the chef’s Warwickshire roots. The kitchen is partly sustained by Mallory Court Hotel’s gardens, which allowed Paul to evolve his menus through the seasons. His signature use of wild herbs continued to be present throughout his cooking, while seasonal vegetables, such as freshly picked asparagus and beetroot from the garden, played a key part in his dishes.

Friend and mentor Sat Bains has described Paul’s cooking as modern, with clear influences from the chef’s own travels and career. Paul's recipe of 40° salmon with potato juice, Jerusalem artichoke and sea vegetables harks back to his first experience of cooking sous vide in America, and is a dish that has been developed upon since his time at Tuddenham Mill.

Paul is actively involved in fundraising for Farm Africa, a charity which helps develop farming techniques in communities in East Africa. In 2013 he visited some of the projects in Kenya and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, helping to raise over £47,000 for the cause. He has also facilitated organising an annual five-a-side football tournament for the charity.

In February 2016, Paul announced he was leaving Mallory Court to crowdfund his own restaurant through Kickstarter. He achieved his target of £100,000 at the beginning of March 2016, and opened Salt in Stratford-upon-Avon a year later. Here, he continues to evolve his cooking style as his wife Rhiain runs the business.